‘The Prisoner and the Chaplain’ by Michelle Berry

” The Prisoner and the Chaplain is about two men; one man awaiting execution, the other man listening to his story. As the hours drain away, the chaplain must decide if the prisoner’s story is an off-the-cuff confession or a last bid for salvation. As the chaplain listens he realizes a life has many stories, and he has his own story to tell. Each man is guilty in his own way, and their stories have led them to the same room, a room that only one of them will leave alive. If you had only twelve hours left to live, what would you have to say?”

I’ve always loved the simplicity of books or movies that take place in one room with only two characters. When done well it can be a very effective setting for a story to unfold. This one was well done. There is a suspenseful intensity that drives the novel forward, because the clock is literally ticking during this prisoner’s last 12 hours. I liked the humble nature of the Chaplain and though there are some brutal moments in some of the scenes, albeit it gently handled (we are talking death row here folks), it  is a reflective probe into the life of one criminal.

Incidentally, the author, a teacher of creative writing at the University of Toronto, also runs a bookstore in Peterborough called Hunter Street Books.

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